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UNRWA, Aid Agency in Gaza, Set to Lose $65 Million, Documents Show

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the main aid agency in Gaza, is set to lose $65 million by the end of February as donors’ funding cuts begin to kick in, according to internal accounting documents reviewed by The New York Times.

At least 18 states or institutions, including many of the agency’s biggest funders, announced they were suspending their donations to the agency, known as UNRWA, after accusations emerged last month that several employees participated in the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

Some of those suspensions will take time to take effect. Countries deliver their donations at intervals throughout the year, and some of the countries were not scheduled to make their payments for several months. For example, the United States had already made the first of its three installments in January, and the second U.S. payment is not due until May, according to the documents.

But Finland missed a payment of $5.4 million in January, and three more countries — Germany, Japan and Sweden — are set to miss payments throughout February that are collectively worth almost $60 million.

Because UNRWA has no significant reserves, the shortfall means the agency will have no funds of its own in March to pay its 30,000 workers across the Middle East, of which 13,000 are in Gaza, according to Tamara Alrifai, a spokeswoman for UNRWA.

The agency could bridge the gap by applying for a loan from a centralized U.N. reserve, Ms. Alrifai said.

UNRWA’s operation plays a critical role in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. More than 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.2 million people have been displaced by the war, and more than half of the population are now sheltering in repurposed schools and centers run by the agency.

UNRWA also oversees the distribution of the meager supplies of aid that arrive each day to Gaza by truck. Already, aid agencies are warning of famine amid profound food shortages and the collapse of the health care system.

Since donor states began suspending their funds, the agency has received an unusually high number of private donations from individual citizens seeking to fill the void. In the five days after the allegations surfaced, Ms. Alrifai said, UNRWA received roughly $5 million from private donors — more than the agency would typically receive from individuals during any single month.

But the donations are not enough to fund the agency for more than a few days: It has an annual budget of more than $1.5 billion, Ms. Alrifai said.

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Nathan
Nathan

Nathan is an experienced journalist. He's covered a broad spectrum of topics, including politics, culture, and human interest stories, always aiming to engage and inform his audience. Nathan has a degree in Journalism and upholds the highest standards of integrity and accuracy in his work.

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